Tahlequah

Even with the 2004 oil spill, Tahlequah proves to be still one of the best birding locations on the island from late fall through mid spring. It's view from the south tip of the island gives good looks across to Pt. Defiance and both ways up and down Dalco Passage. The best actual places to look consist of the ferry dock itself for water birds and around the park and ride lot for land birds. Residents of the neighborhood interested in birds can also expect to find lots of migrants landing or preparing to leave the island in spring and fall.

The parking lot area provides a lot of birds both in the surrounding trees and along the blackberry hedge. The blackberry hedges attract a sparrow flock that usually includes towhees, Song, Fox, and Golden-crowned Sparrows, juncos and occasionally a Hermit Thrush. Along the street, local bird feeders also bring in lots of various finches and an Anna's Hummingbird or two. The trees lining the road sometimes harbor wintering warblers. Overhead one can usually see a Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk or Common Raven or all three.

At the dock, one finds close looks at a wide range of water birds. The old dock parallel to the ferry dock almost always has a number of cormorants, sometimes as many as 80 rest here. They are predominantly Double-crested Cormorants, with the adults told by the small orange pouch at the base of the bill and juveniles with white/gray necks and breast. One or two of the much smaller Pelagic Cormorants which have very thin, snaky necks usually hang out there as well and rarely a Brandt's Cormorant will be present.

Also, many gulls usually perch along the neighboring dock. Most of the gulls are Glaucus-winged Gulls but rarely they are joined by Herring or Western Gulls. It would take too many pages to go through all of the ways to tell these species apart but if one brings a field guide along, the views are close enough that one should be able to spot the rarer birds in the group. Gary Shugart has found at least one adult Western Gull there through the fall and winter this year and Heerman's Gulls up to the end of October.

Gary also found the second record of a Franklin's Gull for Vashon recently, watching the gulls flying by the dock. Bonaparte's and Mew Gulls often stream by the dock. The Bonaparte's Gull flocks give those with the patience to always look through each individual bird of the group the opportunity to find a rare Little Gull, Common Black-headed Gull or Franklin's Gull. The first two have yet to be seen off Vashon but must be present, as they have been sighted regularly but rarely in surrounding areas.

Many ducks dive and dabble in the nearby water and along the shore. A group of Surf Scoters is always there sometimes joined by White-winged Scoters. Both goldeneyes, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers and rarely the colorful Harlequin Duck may also be seen. The shoreline attracts Mallards and wigeon. Interspersed with the ducks, Horned and Red-necked Grebes and Pigeon Guillemots fish close in to the dock and farther out Common Loons, Western Grebes, Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres cruise along the rips. The ferry ride across grants some closer looks at these latter birds.